There is No “Normal”

By Wanda

As I write, there is a tub load of laundry in the dryer. For many of us there is always a tub load of laundry either in the washer or dryer. The thing is, both the wash cycle and drying cycle were labeled “normal.” Either one of your machines, and perhaps your dishwasher, have “normal” settings. Isn’t it interesting that machines regularly come with these settings, but humans are expected to conform to societal norms and standards?

Hey, society and media outlets, I hate to burst your bubble, but there is NO SUCH THING AS NORMAL. Charles Addams is known for his observation: “Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” What is normal for Cindy Lou Who isn’t John Doe’s normal. What is normal for one migraineur isn’t normal for the migraineur next to them in the doctor’s office.

What is important is to learn and ACCEPT your normal. It’s hard to do, especially if you have just begun your journey with chronic migraine or illness. Acceptance takes time and work. It takes strength of mind and spirit you never knew you had. It takes letting go of previous expectations and embracing new goals.

We are not machines: we are each beautifully unique creations with both wonderfully different and amazingly similar lives, wants, needs, and goals. The first step to finding your new normal is examining what your life “gives” you every day. While keeping a migraine or pain diary helps track your progress towards finding the treatment combo that suits you best, keeping a “blessing” diary or “happiness” diary helps you see there is something to be thankful about every day.

Personally, any day I’m breathing and mobile is a good day. Yes, I set my standards lower than most would, but this way every little thing accomplished beyond my “normal” of breathing and moving is a good thing. It doesn’t mean dwelling on the pain or vertigo or joints that pop in and out of place is MY normal. It means being present and choosing to look past all that for the little things in life most people miss — all the different colors of green in the grass and leaves instead of being upset you cant mow the lawn today, the sound of wind in the trees instead of focusing on the ringing in your ears, watching the birds and the bees and the butterflies dance around instead of focusing on not being able to take a walk or go to the park.

Being present, accepting OUR individual “normal,” means we get to enjoy the moment instead of stressing about the future or mourning our past. Marking our progress towards an effective treatment plan shows us how far we’ve come and how far we can go. There are so many more options in regards to treatments and tests now… consider ten or fifteen years ago. Motrin was about all there was. Imitrex if your doctor would give it to you. No one really even specialized in migraines when I started having them. Especially not in my preteens with intractable migraine, which was my normal.

Since starting this article, if you will, I’ve gone through doing the wash, to dealing with a migraine/cluster headache, to sitting on the front porch with a left lobe migraine and a summer cold. Right now my “normal” is dealing with the pain and fever while I watch little robin birds learn to fly. Tomorrow my normal will be braces on both knees and wrists while I move. Who knows what the next day’s normal will be. Yes, the sun does hurt, but sitting in the shade with sunglasses on allows me to be outside with all the sights and sounds of nature’s chorus.

So, take away these 6 ideas that have helped me:

1. Take stock of where you are, what you are hearing and seeing and feeling.

2. Accept this as your normal for the moment, or hour, or day.

3. Look around and find something tactile to help ground you.

4. Find a comfortable position, make sure you have something to drink nearby, and even if you need to hide under the blankets just be under the blankets.

6. Tomorrow, later today, in a couple hours, and even in a couple minutes will bring new circumstances that you don’t need to worry about now.

Remember: Normal is just a setting on the washer. You do you in the moment. The rest of your day or week or month will come together as it does. For Migraineurs, and all spoonies, this moment – THIS ONE – is all we need to concentrate on right now.

Be present. Be aware. Be you.

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